Spoiler Alert: Championship Sunday

Q: What do the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, and Auburn Tigers have in common?

A(1): Each has played at least one post-season game in 2014

A(2): Heath Evans has played for all of them

What Forrest Gump was to pop culture in the second half of the 20th century, Evans is to football this month.

Evans – the smart fullback who spent ten seasons with the Hawks, Pats, Saints (and Dolphins) – now regularly shares his insights with you on NFL Network… and with me in the hallways of NFL Network whenever I can trap him for a few minutes.

Along with the heaps of great anecdotes about Jerry Rice’s time in Seattle, winning a ring in New Orleans, and watching the original Beast Mode run from the sidelines as a member of the Saints, Evans is especially insightful on the mindset of one Bill Belichick. Matter of fact, I’ve taken to calling him ‘The Hoodie Whisperer’. Evans’ admiration for his former coach runs deep (so deep, in fact, he even claims Belichick has a sense of humor!), but simultaneously demystifies ‘The Patriot Way’: To hear him tell it, there’s not some metaphysical magic at work. Rather, it’s Belichick’s practical trust in his players to not only know their own jobs, but – literally – the responsibility of every other teammate involved in any particular play design.

So I asked the Hoodie Whisperer what he expected from the Pats on Sunday.

“They’re gonna take the air of it.”

Really? Don’t you think the plan should be to just pick on Quentin Jammer all day?

“They’re gonna run the ball.”

Does that mean we’ll see a ton of LaGarrette Blount? Or might Belichick throw a curveball and go with Shane Vereen?

“No, Shane’s dropped some balls lately. Bill definitely doesn’t like that. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of Stevan Ridley… (Denver DT Terrance) Knighton is real solid, but a guy like Ridley might be able to get some quick hitters past him.”

Like anybody else, the Hoodie Whisperer can’t talk for long about Belichick without getting around to Tom Brady.

What’s Brady like?

“As humble and nice a ‘superstar’ as there is… he’s really just one of the guys. He’s a really hard worker.”

Willie McGinest – another longtime Patriot-turned-NFL-Network-analyst – furthers this point: “Win or lose, when we got on that team plane to go home, Tom went straight to back of the plane, took up a whole row, turned on his laptop and started studying for next week.”

The Hoodie Whisperer: “Yep, you hear it about a lot of guys, but Tom honestly doesn’t care about his numbers. He only cares about winning.”

Yeah, but isn’t that true of every QB? Does Peyton Manning care about his stats?

“Peyton knows how many touchdowns he’s thrown, believe me.”

Hmm.

“I don’t mean that in a bad way. I think he thinks his touchdown passes give his team the best chance of winning.”

The Hoodie Whisperer is not what Broncos and some Colts fans call a “Peyton Hater”. In fact, he raves about what #18 can figure out about a defense – and how quickly he can figure it out – before every snap he takes. Virtually anyone who’s played against Peyton supports this.

This week, I also kibitzed with Terrell Suggs, who was on the field for the win against Manning’s Broncos last January in the divisional round. Did Suggs – who’s been trash-talking rival QBs since before Richard Sherman was catching passes at Stanford – have a withering crack about Peyton’s overtime interception?

“It showed Peyton’s character. He came into our locker room after the game… I’ve never seen that before… an opposing quarterback… and he and Ray Lewis talked like high school buddies for an hour. Made me say I’m no longer an adversary of Peyton Manning.”

The comment is especially stunning when held in sharp relief to his response about his feelings for Brady.

True or false, Suggs: you really don’t like Tom Brady.

“True… it’s football history… the whole thing… the knee pointing, the Brady Rule, all of it.”

To be fair, Suggs also says he’s “seeing his therapist” to quell said disdain… but my takeaway is this: Both Manning and Brady are good at football. Seriously. When you beat someone a lot, it tends to cause raw feelings.

Which leads me to another takeaway: The Hoodie Whisperer, T-Sizzle, and (at least 97% of) all pro football players are human beings. They work year ‘round with the goal of reaching the Super Bowl, but in seven of the past twelve seasons, they’ve instead had to sit and watch Brady or Peyton play in the big game. That means an inordinate number of an entire generation of football players have had an inordinate number of their seasons within their relatively brief football-playing lives ended by either Brady or Peyton. And you think you’ve got reasons to hate them? Come to think of it, we should be amazed we don’t hear more disdain for either guy. Instead, we hear almost nothing but respect and admiration.

So what’s any of this mean? And does any of it have an impact on Sunday’s game? Heath doesn’t know. Neither does Suggs. No one knows. One thing we do all know, though: two legacies are on the line. The winner will get a shot at immortality. The loser will be judged harshly. Except by his fellow players.

spoiler-alert

Warning: do NOT continue reading if you don’t want to know the results of Championship Sunday.

(4-0 last week; 170-96 on the season)

PATRIOTS 38

BRONCOS 37

NE: J. Edelman – 7 rec, 90 yds, 2 TDs

DEN: P. Manning – 402 yds, 3 TDs, 2 INTs

NINERS 20

SEAHAWKS 17

SF: F. Gore – 27 carries, 110 yds, TD

SEA: M. Lynch – 27 carries, 88 yds, TD

Enjoy the title games! I hope your team wins…

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Reality Shek: Dueling Personalities

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Inside Out with Terrell Suggs & Roddy White #3

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Inside Out with Terrell Suggs & Roddy White #2

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Inside Out with Terrell Suggs & Roddy White #1

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Stuff (for the Week of 1/13/14)

1. The best Championship Sunday of the 21st century

2. Pizza with meatball & onion

3. Sidney Crosby > Evgeni Malkin > Alex Ovechkin

4. (tie) Smell of fresh-cut grass/’Young Frankenstein’

5. The comedy that is the 2013-’14 Lakers

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DDFP 224: Terrell Suggs, Roddy White & Championship preview

(National Football League)

Dave Dameshek talks to the Ravens Terrell Suggs and Falcons Roddy White on a Championship Weekend preview #DDFP. (National Football League)

DDFP 224

Shek, Rank & Elliot Harrison are joined in Studio 66 for a comprehensive Championship Weekend preview and a debate on the matchup they’ll most like to see in the Super Bowl. Shek also catches up with the Ravens Terrell Suggs and Falcons Roddy White to discuss their personal rivalries with Tom Brady and Richard Sherman on a new installment of “Inside/Out”. Also, be sure to follow @NFLcomLIVE for entertaining playoff coverage leading up to the very unique “NFL.com LIVE: Super Bowl XLVIII” show featuring Dave Dameshek and Adam Rank.

Download: DDFP 224: Terrell Suggs, Roddy White & Championship preview

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shek Report: Divisional Round Weekend

With the conference championships on the horizon, Dave Dameshek looks back at the biggest blunders from the divisional round. Find out who falls victim to Dave’s white-hot light of shame.

DDFP 223: Divisional recap & future of NFL QBs

Associated Press

Dave Dameshek and the crew recap the Divisional Round Weekend and discuss the future of the NFL quarterback. (Associated Press)

Subscribe to the Dave Dameshek Football Program on iTunes.

DDFP 223

Shek is joined in Studio 66 by Around The League scribe Chris Wesseling and Handsome Hank for a breakdown of the four divisional games, including the battle for Peyton Manning’s affection by Papa John’s Pizza and Omaha, a look ahead to the title games, reaction to Colin Kaepernick’s alleged “hip hop” behavior, and a discussion on what the future of the NFL quarterback looks like.

Download: DDFP 223: Divisional recap & the future of NFL QBs

Spoiler Alert: Divisional Round

two-cakes1

I’ve got two cakes in the fridge for the games this weekend. One cake’s for eating, the other’s just to have. Figured that’d be fitting, because I’m rooting for both sides in every game.

I know, I know… I’m being Pollyanna. Or maybe I’m subconsciously trying to ingratiate myself to that fan who took my pick against his team in Week Seven so personally he tracked me down on Twitter to accuse me of “hating” his city.

I choose to believe my heart is pure. As a fan myself, I’m equally excited and empathetic towards those who’ve got a nerve-wracking three-and-a-half hours upcoming on Saturday or Sunday. As a diehard, I know the reflected glory and relief when your team wins, and bitter pain when your team loses.

Like I say, some fans accuse me of hating their team. The supposition is – because I don’t hide the fact I grew up a Steelers fan – I therefore root against everyone else. I get it, but it’s just plain incorrect. As a grownup, I’m able to successfully distinguish what I think from what I want. The intellectual aspect aside, though, my personal allegiance to one team is precisely why I’m rooting for everyone this weekend. Silly as it seems to those unknowing, unlucky souls who don’t understand the sports fan’s devotion, I know the visceral emotion post-season football evokes.

For 16 days each fall, we live vicariously through the deeds of large human beings wearing the right logo. A lucky few get to keep on rooting when the calendar flips to January. As a Steelers fan, my pain is done for the season (unlike at least one other supporter of the black-and-gold) but I still know what winning can do. Winning makes the frigid winter feel shorter. It gives us something to look forward to while chipping the ice off the windshield or waiting at the train stop in the rain or maybe even rebuilding a city.

I was in New Orleans shooting a Mardi Gras bit for Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show just a few days after the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010 – and just a few years after Hurricane Katrina. It was as joyous a place as I’ve ever been. I don’t want to slip into some maudlin hyperbole by overstating the significance of that Saints’ season, but it’d be vapidly cynical to ignore the boost the team gave those fleur de lis-festooned people literally dancing in the streets stretched in front of their still-tattered homes.

Is fandom delusional? Yes. Does a collection of high-paid athletes gathered from far-flung origins winning a game actually fix anything in your life? No. But like the Marx Brothers do for Woody Allen at the end of ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’, a playoff game – even one our team loses – gives us a distraction, and at best makes us part of something larger, something shared, something fun. Like Woody asks, “Don’t you want to be a part of the experience?” Yes, Woody, I do. And that’s why I’m eating just one cake this weekend.

spoiler-alert

Warning: do NOT continue reading this if you don’t want to know the scores of the divisional round games.

(1-3 last week, 166-96 on the season)

SAINTS 16

SEAHAWKS 24

NO – D. Brees: 299 yds, TD, 2 INTs

SEA – M. Lynch: 133 yds, TD

COLTS 24

PATS 35

IND – T.Y. Hilton: 52 yds

NE – S. Vereen: 142 yds/scrimmage, 2 TDs

NINERS 23

PANTHERS 10

SF – A. Boldin: 86 yds, TD

CAR – D. Williams: 41 yds

CHARGERS 24

BRONCOS 37

SD – M. Ingram: 2 sacks

DEN – D. Thomas: 114 yds, 2 TDs

Enjoy the divisional round, everybody! I hope your team wins…

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